Charters exist from the 8th century granting rights of pannage within The Blean. Pannage is the practice of releasing tame swine into a wood to fatten up on the acorns and beech mast. The importance of this is shown by many of the woods in The Blean carrying the suffix or prefix ‘den’, as in Thornden and Denstead.
The Jutes had practised transhumance, moving their livestock from north-east Kent to the Stour valley west of Canterbury and back again at different times of year. They used ancient drove-ways through The Blean known as Radfalls. These tracks are bounded by banks on each side to prevent livestock browsing on the valuable young coppice shoots. Later woodland reeves were responsible for keeping these drove-ways clear and it is recorded that they could take any wood from the clearance as a perquisite, a perk of the job for their own use.
Wool became the mainstay of the medieval economy and the coastal plain north of The Blean was sheep country. We can imagine that live mutton was driven along these same routes to feed the population of Canterbury and its transient visitors.
With thanks to the Blean Heritage and Community Group